A major British fruit supplier and a craft spirits producer have teamed up to find a way to prevent an estimated 166m surplus supermarket grapes from going to waste every year – by turning them into gin.
The new Hyke gin – the first in the UK to be made from grapes grown to be eaten fresh – goes on sale at 300 Tesco branches later this month.
Tesco is among the larger UK supermarkets and manufacturers to have signed up to efforts to drive down the UK’s annual £20bn food waste bill by committing to halving waste from “farm to fork” by 2030.
Every year fruit supplier and importer Richard Hochfeld, based in Kent, loses the equivalent of 1.4m punnets of grapes in the transportation and packing process. Among the bunches of black and green grapes that arrive in the UK from South America and South Africa are loose ones and those that are damaged, wrinkled or fail to meet supermarket specifications because they are the wrong shape or size.
Total wastage of these “table” grapes (as opposed to those grown to make wine) is estimated at about 2-3% per annum, meaning a large volume of rejected fruit is not being eaten. To use the grapes, the company has linked up with the West Sussex-based distiller Foxhole Spirits and Tesco.
Karen Cleave, Richard Hochfeld’s technical director, said: “For packing, the grapes are cut and trimmed to fit the punnets, leaving loose grapes and tiny bunches that can’t be sold as fresh. The size of the trade means that these fresh grapes … end up as compost, animal feed or in an anaerobic digester. Now we’re taking them on a journey which respects the provenance of the grapes.”
In the production of Hyke gin, each whole grape is pressed, but Foxhole only uses the juice from the pressing to ferment into the wine, which is distilled to produce a grape spirit. This leaves the skin, pulp and pips (a dry mixture known as pomace), most of which which is then sent for anaerobic digestion.
The grape spirit is blended with a neutral grain spirit and botanicals including juniper, myrrh, coriander and rooibos.
Fermented grapes are best known for being used in wine, but they can also end up as brandy and schnapps. Grape pomace is also a rich source of antioxidants, which has made it popular in skincare products.
The launch of Hyke comes with gin sales in the UK at a 50 year high and demand for “premium” gin at Tesco alone soaring by nearly 90% in the last year.
How does Hyke taste? An expert’s opinion
Hyke is a bouncy, light gin. The grapes it uses are less heavy than the traditional grain base, which gives the flavour a vibrancy that really suits its herbal and floral notes. If you like a rich, juniper-heavy traditional spirit such as Beefeater or Tanqueray, this probably isn’t one for you. If you’re a fan of delicate, fragrant Bombay Sapphire-style gins, this is ideal. I can see a spirit as subtle as this getting lost in a cocktail, so I would make a straightforward gin and tonic or martini with it. At £24 for 50cl, it’s reasonable but not a bargain.
Olivia Williams is the author of Gin Glorious Gin